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The Daily 202: With a Godfather reference and a Nixon quote, Mueller accuses Roger Stone of witness tampering

On Feb. 20, 2020, Roger Stone was sentenced to three years and four months in prison. President Trump commuted Stone’s sentence on July 10, 2020. (Video: Monica Akhtar, Erin Patrick O'Connor/The Washington Post)

with Joanie Greve

With Joanie Greve

THE BIG IDEA: The most politically explosive allegation in special counsel Bob Mueller’s seven-count indictment of Roger Stone — who was arrested early Friday morning during an FBI raid of his home in Florida — is that he lied to Congress when he denied discussing his advance knowledge of WikiLeaks’ email dumps with anyone involved in Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign.

“In truth … Stone spoke to multiple individuals involved in the Trump Campaign about what he claimed to have learned from his intermediary to” WikiLeaks, Mueller’s charging document alleges, not giving names. “After the July 22, 2016 release of stolen DNC emails … a senior Trump Campaign official was directed to contact Stone about any additional releases and what other damaging information [WikiLeaks] had regarding the [Hillary] Clinton Campaign. Stone thereafter told the Trump Campaign about potential future releases of damaging material by [WikiLeaks]. … Stone also corresponded with associates about contacting [WikiLeaks] in order to obtain additional emails damaging to the Clinton Campaign.”

The indictment does not name the “senior Trump campaign official” (CNBC reports that it was Steve Bannon) or who allegedly directed that person to contact Stone. But it does lay out several alleged contacts between Stone and others in Trump’s orbit. For example, Stone emailed “a supporter involved with the Trump Campaign” on Oct. 3, 2016: “Spoke to my friend in London last night. The payload is still coming.” The next day, Stone allegedly told “a high-ranking Trump Campaign official” that Julian Assange had canceled a planned news conference because of concerns about his security, but that WikiLeaks would release “a load every week going forward” of emails damaging to Clinton.

On Oct. 7, 2016, WikiLeaks released the first set of emails stolen from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta shortly after The Washington Post published the “Access Hollywood” tape of Trump bragging in vulgar terms about kissing, groping and trying to have sex with women. The indictment reveals that “an associate of the high-ranking Trump Campaign official” subsequently sent a text message to Stone. “Well done,” it read.

The 66-year-old Stone has been close with Trump for three decades. He briefly had an official role in the Trump campaign until August 2015, when he left to become an informal adviser. He has said he stayed in touch with Trump “from time to time” during the campaign.

-- But the most memorable details from the 24-page indictment, which you can read in full here, relate to the separate charges of witness tampering and obstruction of an official proceeding. As the old saying goes: It’s not the crime. It’s the cover up.

Prosecutors say Stone made repeated references to “The Godfather: Part II” in December 2017 as he pushed an unnamed “Person 2” to not tell the truth to the House Intelligence Committee so he could cover up his role. “People close to the case said Person 2 is New York comedian Randy Credico,” per Rosalind Helderman, Devlin Barrett and John Wagner.

“On multiple occasions … Stone told Person 2 that Person 2 should do a ‘Frank Pentangeli’ before [the committee] in order to avoid contradicting Stone’s testimony,” according to the indictment. “Pentangeli is a character in the film ‘The Godfather: Part II,’ which both Stone and Person 2 had discussed, who testifies before a congressional committee and in that testimony claims not to know critical information that he does in fact know.”

If you’ve never seen the movie, the Pentangeli character tells congressional investigators pressing him on his ties to the mafia: “I don’t know nothin’ about that.” Watch the scene:

On Dec. 1, 2017, Stone allegedly texted Credico: “And if you turned over anything to the FBI you’re a fool.” Later that day, he purportedly texted Stone, “You need to amend your testimony before I testify on the 15th.” Stone allegedly replied, “If you testify you’re a fool. … I guarantee you you are the one who gets indicted for perjury if you’re stupid enough to testify.”

On Nov. 19, 2017, after Credico had texted Stone about a request by the House committee for him to testify, Stone allegedly responded by quoting Richard Nixon trying to orchestrate the Watergate cover-up: “‘Stonewall it. Plead the fifth. Anything to save the plan.’” The next day, Credico declined the House committee’s request for a voluntary interview. 

Nixon had given that instruction to John Mitchell, his former attorney general and reelection campaign chairman, during a meeting in March 1973. It was recorded by the Oval Office taping system — and played for jurors during Mitchell’s trial the next year. Stone, who got his start in politics on Nixon’s 1972 reelection campaign, has a Nixon tattoo on his back. 

-- After the person believed to be Credico invoked the Fifth Amendment, Stone “repeatedly made statements intended to prevent Person 2 from cooperating with the investigations,” the indictment alleges:

  • On Christmas Eve in 2017, Stone texted: “I’m not talking to the FBI and if your smart you won’t either.”
  • On April 9, 2018, Stone emailed: “You are a rat. A stoolie. You backstab your friends-run your mouth my lawyers are dying Rip you to shreds.”
  • Stone allegedly threatened on the same day to “take that dog away from you,” referring to Credico’s beloved dog. “I am so ready,” Stone apparently wrote later that day. “Let’s get it on. Prepare to die [expletive].”

-- Stone will appear before a federal judge in Fort Lauderdale later today. He could not be immediately reached for comment.

-- CNN captured footage of Stone’s arrest: “A number of law enforcement vehicles with silent sirens flashing pulled in front of Stone's home on a darkened Ft. Lauderdale street just after 6 a.m. Friday morning. About a dozen officers with heavy weapons and tactical vests fanned out across Stone's lawn. Law enforcement shined a flashlight into Stone's front door before one officer rapped against it, shouting, ‘FBI. Open the door.’ Seconds later, the agent shouted, ‘FBI. Warrant.’ A floor light turned on and moments later, Stone appeared in the front entryway.” (Watch it here.)


-- Two senior White House security officials objected to Jared Kushner receiving a top-secret clearance because of his possible susceptibility to foreign influence. But they were overruled by their supervisor. NBC News’s Laura Strickler, Ken Dilanian and Peter Alexander report: “The official, Carl Kline, is a former Pentagon employee who was installed as director of the personnel security office in the Executive Office of the President in May 2017. Kushner's was one of at least 30 cases in which Kline overruled career security experts and approved a top secret clearance for incoming Trump officials despite unfavorable information, [two sources familiar with the matter] said. They said the number of rejections that were overruled was unprecedented — it had happened only once in the three years preceding Kline's arrival. … Kushner's FBI background check identified questions about his family's business, his foreign contacts, his foreign travel and meetings he had during the campaign, the sources said, declining to be more specific.”

  • Rep. Elijah Cummings (D-Md.), the chairman of the House Oversight Committee, has launched an investigation into the Trump administration's handling of security clearances.
  • The Post reported last February that “officials in at least four countries have privately discussed ways they can manipulate [Kushner] by taking advantage of his complex business arrangements, financial difficulties and lack of foreign policy experience, according to current and former U.S. officials familiar with intelligence reports on the matter.”

-- Trump’s former campaign chairman Paul Manafort, who was once Stone’s business partner, is also set to appear in federal court today to face a judge weighing whether he breached his plea agreement by lying repeatedly to prosecutors in the Mueller probe. “A finding that the 69-year-old Manafort ‘intentionally provided false information’ after pleading guilty in any of five areas alleged by prosecutors could subject him to months or years more in prison at two fast-approaching sentencing hearings, beginning Feb. 8,” Spencer Hsu and Rachel Weiner report.

-- The Senate Intelligence Committee subpoenaed Michael Cohen after Trump’s former lawyer canceled his planned public testimony next month. Robert Costa and Karoun Demirjian report: “Leaders of both the House and Senate Intelligence committees — the panels to which Cohen lied — had been in discussions with Cohen’s legal team to set up closed-door briefings around the same time. The Senate panel’s subpoena is an attempt to force at least one of those closed-door hearings to take place, despite Cohen canceling the public one.”

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Facing an uncertain future, migrants confront a series of choices – seek asylum in Mexico, return back home or cross the border illegally. (Video: Drea Cornejo, Jon Gerberg/The Washington Post)

-- The Trump administration announced it would start instituting a policy today to send some asylum seekers at the southern border back to Mexico as their cases are processed. Andrew deGrandpre, Maria Sacchetti, Kevin Sieff and David Nakamura report: “The initiative, announced by the Department of Homeland Security on Thursday night, follows high-level talks between the two governments late last year as U.S. border officials struggled to contend with waves of Central American migrants fleeing violence and poverty. It will be introduced in California, at the San Ysidro port of entry south of San Diego, and eventually expanded throughout the nearly 2,000-mile border … According to a fact sheet distributed by DHS, these new measures will apply to ‘certain aliens attempting to enter the U.S. illegally or without documentation, including those who claim asylum.’ It says they will no longer be released into the country, ‘where they often fail to file an asylum application or disappear before an immigration judge can determine the merits of any claim to prevent removal.’"


  1. Florida’s newly appointed secretary of state resigned after photos emerged of him in blackface at a 2005 Halloween party. Gov. Ron DeSantis (R), who appointed Michael Ertel to the post, announced the resignation after being shown the pictres by the Tallahassee Democrat newspaper. (Michael Brice-Saddler)

  2. A member of the Alaska governor’s Cabinet resigned over questions about his business background. Department of Administration Commissioner Jonathan Quick offered his resignation to Gov. Mike Dunleavy (R) after it emerged that claims he made about past investments appeared to be false. (AP)

  3. Under the Trump administration, EPA civil penalties have fallen 85 percent compared with the previous two decades. The inflation-adjusted figures from Trump’s first two years in office were the lowest since the EPA’s Office of Enforcement and Compliance Assurance was established. Former agency officials expressed alarm that the decrease in fines could affect the EPA’s ability to deter wrongdoing. (Juliet Eilperin and Brady Dennis)
  4. California officials found Pacific Gas & Electric not responsible for the 2017 Tubbs Fire, which killed 22 people. Cal Fire’s decision removes a significant financial burden from PG&E as it prepares to file for bankruptcy, but the utility could still be found responsible for the even more destructive Camp Fire. (Scott Wilson)

  5. Florida authorities have not concluded why a man opened fire at a SunTrust Bank, killing five. The chief of police in Sebring, Fla., said investigators have uncovered no “true motive” for the violence, adding that it appeared to be a “random act” with “no specific targets.” (Katie Mettler, Mark Berman, Amy B Wang and Meagan Flynn)
  6. A Florida man who tried to force out his Middle Eastern neighbors said of his efforts, “If [I don’t] get rid of them, Trump will handle it.” The case is being investigated as a hate crime after David Allen Boileau admitted to walking into the family’s home and rifling through their mail while expressing antagonism toward Middle Eastern immigrants. (Meagan Flynn)

  7. Growing brain research indicates that poor sleep affects people’s cognition and overall health. Some studies even suggest that a lack of sleep can increase one’s risk of Alzheimer’s. (Carolyn Y. Johnson)

  8. CNN’s Jim Acosta is writing a book about the Trump administration’s battles with the media. The book’s publisher said it would include “never-before-revealed stories of this White House's rejection of truth, while laying out the stakes for how Trump's hostility toward facts poses an unprecedented threat to our democracy.” (CNN)

The Senate rejected competing proposals to end the partial government shutdown on Jan. 24. The Fix's Aaron Blake analyzes what could happen next. (Video: Monica Akhtar/The Washington Post)


-- Both Senate bills to reopen the government failed to advance, and a bipartisan proposal to at least temporarily end the shutdown died before it even got off the ground — seemingly leaving lawmakers back at square one. Erica Werner, Sean Sullivan and Mike DeBonis report: “A plan newly floated by a bipartisan group of senators to reopen the government for three weeks while negotiating over border security seemed to collapse almost as soon as it emerged, with the White House insisting Trump would accept such a proposal only if it included a 'down payment' on his wall — and [Nancy Pelosi] calling that a non-starter. And the plan House Democrats are working to roll out, while expected to match or exceed the $5.7 billion Trump has put forward for his wall, will specifically exclude funding for it, instead directing the money toward technological improvements and other changes along the border — probably making it unacceptable to the president. ...

“Speaking at the White House ... the president said that if [Mitch McConnell and Chuck Schumer] could come up with a 'reasonable agreement,' he would support it. Asked if he could support a plan that didn’t include wall funding, Trump said: 'I have other alternatives if I have to. ... We have to have a wall in this situation.' Trump has suggested declaring a national emergency to circumvent Congress and use the military to build the wall, a possibility that remains on the table if the impasse continues.”

-- Behind closed doors, Republican senators exchanged tense words, venting frustration at both McConnell and Vice President Pence about the ongoing impasse. Sean Sullivan and Paul Kane report: “‘This is your fault,’ Sen. Ron Johnson (R-Wis.) told [McConnell] at one point, according to two Republicans who attended the lunch and witnessed the exchange. ‘Are you suggesting I’m enjoying this?’ McConnell snapped back, according to the people who attended the lunch. Johnson spokesman Ben Voelkel confirmed the confrontation. He said Johnson was expressing frustration with the day’s proceedings … Six Republicans broke ranks to vote for the Democratic plan, which would have reopened shuttered government agencies through Feb. 8, without any wall money. Among them was Sen. Mitt Romney (R-Utah), who explained in the lunch why he planned to vote for both bills. Sen. Thom Tillis (R-N.C.), who voted for Trump’s bill but opposed the Democratic plan, started to interrupt him and Romney snapped back, according to one of the people …

Also during the lunch, McConnell made clear to Pence and others in the room that the shutdown was not his idea and was not working. According to Republicans familiar with his comments, he quoted a favorite saying that he often uses to express his displeasure with government shutdowns: ‘There is no education in the second kick of a mule.’ McConnell started using that saying after the 2013 shutdown, which lasted 16 days and ended after the public largely blamed Republicans.”

-- The administration updated its draft proclamation to declare a national emergency at the southern border as recently as last week, showing the drastic and unilateral executive action remains on the table. CNN’s Priscilla Alvarez and Tammy Kupperman report: “According to options being considered, the administration could pull: $681 million from Treasury forfeiture funds, $3.6 billion in military construction, $3 billion in Pentagon civil works funds, and $200 million in Department of Homeland Security funds.”

-- Latino advocacy organizations that met with Jared Kushner said the president’s son-in-law proposed permanent protections for “dreamers” in exchange for $25 billion. McClatchy’s Franco Ordoñez and Andrea Drusch report: “Last year Democrats offered $25 billion in border security in exchange for a path to citizenship for DACA recipients, which Trump rejected. And the White House presented a plan last year to protect 1.8 million so-called Dreamers, but it also would have dramatically gutted the legal immigration system. [League of United Latin American Citizens President Domingo] Garcia did not mention specific changes to the legal immigration system, but he said Kushner did mention the administration wanted to address concerns with the asylum system and adopt a more merit based immigration system. If that part of the proposal is anything like the one suggested last year, it will quickly be met with criticism.”

Trump officials have suggested furloughed federal workers are getting free vacation and questioned why they are going to homeless shelters for food. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post)

-- Meanwhile, administration officials, including the president himself, made tone-deaf comments about furloughed workers. Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta report: Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross “on Thursday morning bemoaned air traffic controllers, who he incorrectly said were calling in sick, and added in a CNBC interview, ‘I don’t really quite understand why’ federal workers were visiting food banks. Instead, he suggested they apply for loans from banks. Then came [Larry] Kudlow, the top White House economic adviser, who called the shutdown ‘just a glitch.’ He went on in a midday gaggle with reporters: ‘Am I out of touch? I don’t think I’m out of touch. I’m addressing the problem. I’ve met with my individual staff members and God bless them. They’re working for free. They’re volunteering. But they do it because they believe government service is honorable and they believe in President Trump.’ …

Late Thursday afternoon, Trump sought to tamp down talk that his administration lacked empathy, singing the praises of federal workers. ‘I love them,’ Trump said during a meeting in the Cabinet Room. ‘I respect them. I really appreciate the great job they’re doing. Many of those people that are not getting paid are totally in favor of what we’re doing.’ The president offered no evidence to support his claim. … Asked Thursday about Ross’s comments, Trump said, ‘Perhaps he should have said it differently.’ He said his commerce secretary was trying to say that beleaguered workers would be given breaks by local businesses. ‘Local people know who they are, when they go for groceries and everything else,’ Trump said. ‘They know the people, they’ve been dealing with them for years, and they work along.’”

-- Ross’s suggestion that federal workers apply for loans was met with skepticism by those who pointed out that the Commerce Department’s federal credit union is charging almost 9 percent interest on emergency loans. From David J. Lynch and Damian Paletta: “Emergency loans of up to $5,000 are available for furloughed employees with repayment terms of up to two years, the [credit union’s website] says. Two loan officers reached at the credit union’s telephone number confirmed the terms, which include interest rates ‘as low as 8.99 percent.’”

For years, President Trump publicly mocked his political opponents. Now, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi (D-Calif.) is using the technique on him. (Video: JM Rieger/The Washington Post, Photo: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post)

-- Pelosi seized on comments from Trump's aides as fresh polls showed the public largely blames the president for the shutdown. “Is this the ‘Let them eat cake’ kind of attitude?” Pelosi asked. “Or, ‘Call your father for money’? Or, ‘This is character-building for you. It’s all going to end up very well just so long as you don’t get your paychecks’?” (Philip Rucker, Josh Dawsey and Damian Paletta)

-- “Mr. Trump has never before faced an adversary like Speaker Nancy Pelosi,” the New York Times’s Sheryl Gay Stolberg writes on the paper’s front page. “For a president who prides himself on being a master negotiator, Ms. Pelosi is a different kind of opponent, and one who so far has flummoxed him. Longtime friends of the president say Mr. Trump is not afraid of powerful women, respects them and has empowered them at the White House and in his business. But on the rare occasion when he was challenged by a woman, Mr. Trump was either in charge — or knew the woman had a boss, usually a man, to whom he could appeal, said Barbara A. Res, a former executive vice president of the Trump Organization. In this case, Ms. Pelosi is her own boss. And under the Constitution, she is a leader of a branch of government that is equal to the chief executive. ‘Dealing with anyone with power equal to his is a first for him — at least in his mind,’ Ms. Res said.”

-- Those who have studied Trump’s business history closely say the president’s decision to back down from his State of the Union standoff with Pelosi was reflective of his tendency to relent when his opponents push back hard enough against his demands. Marc Fisher reports: “In the confrontation with Pelosi, Trump plays two roles — personal and presidential. On a personal level, his lifelong determination never to be seen as a loser pressed him toward a combative stance, leading him to declare that Pelosi ‘doesn’t want to hear the truth’ and that he would push ahead with the speech. But as president, Trump was hemmed in by law, tradition and political reality. So when he tweeted late Wednesday that he would yield to Pelosi’s prerogative and postpone the address, the move came as no surprise to longtime Trump watchers and scholars of the presidency.”

Unions representing air traffic controllers, flight attendants and pilots said Jan. 24, that there is an enormous strain in the nation’s aviation system. (Video: Luis Velarde/The Washington Post)


-- About 800,000 federal workers will miss their second paycheck today as the fifth week of the government shutdown concludes.

-- Union leaders warned the prolonged shutdown was threatening the safety of the nation’s aviation system. Lori Aratani and Ashley Halsey III report: “Union leaders said the nation’s aviation system works because it is multilayered, and while many workers remain on the job, others who perform critical functions have been furloughed and their absence leaves the system — and those who use it — vulnerable. ‘Are we less safe today? We are less safe,’ said Sara Nelson, international president of the Association of Flight Attendants. ‘The critical networks of layers of safety and security are not in place because we have people furloughed who fill those roles,’ Nelson said. … The number of TSA employees failing to show up hit 10 percent Sunday and was 7.5 percent Wednesday, the agency said. Some airports, including Baltimore-Washington International Marshall Airport, have had to temporarily shut down checkpoints and redeployed officers to cover the gaps. Others have set up food pantries to assist their federal workers.”

-- Some furloughed government employees are considering leaving their jobs for the private sector. Danielle Paquette reports: Freda McDonald “is among a cadre of public servants with the skills employers crave in this historically tight labor market, and new job-search data shows that recruiters are reaching out to those workers during the shutdown. At the same time, federal employees are increasingly hunting for new roles, the figures reveal. … As government employees meet with recruiters and ponder leaving jobs they’ve cherished, a new problem is emerging amid the nation’s longest-ever funding stalemate: the potential exodus of highly skilled workers. Labor groups say that such a loss of talent could weaken the federal workforce for years, draining institutional memory, countless hours of training and a shared sense of mission.”

-- The Trump administration granted federal employees a two-week delay before they will be billed for their vision and dental coverage. Lisa Rein reports: “The 800,000 employees ... will not have to directly pay their premiums for this coverage unless they miss a third paycheck. The decision came after the personnel agency had warned employees that they would have to pay their premiums beginning this week — when they will miss a second paycheck — or risk losing coverage.”

-- Metro intends to offer free rides to federal workers affected by the shutdown. From Faiz Siddiqui: “Metro Board Chairman Jack Evans said the decision came at the urging of Maryland Gov. Larry Hogan (R), who announced Thursday that Maryland would waive fares for state transportation services, including MARC commuter rail, and called on Metro to follow suit. Evans said the gesture would send a message to federal workers who aren’t receiving paychecks but still have to report for work.”

White House national security adviser John Bolton on Jan. 24 said the U.S. is focusing on “disconnecting” Venezuelan President Nicolás Maduro from his revenue. (Video: Reuters)


-- The Trump administration, in throwing its support behind the opposition government in Venezuela, threatens to destabilize the U.S. oil industry. Anne Gearan and Karen DeYoung report: “In support of the government declared by opposition leader Juan Guaidó, U.S. officials refused to rule out military action or far-reaching economic measures, including an oil embargo that would harm U.S. business. ‘I think that speaks for itself,’ national security adviser John Bolton said when asked Thursday what Trump meant by saying ‘all options’ are available to him. The administration is betting that it will not need to spell it out further. But it was unclear whether it has fully mapped out a strategy in the event that President Nicolás Maduro refuses to budge, serious violence erupts or foreign supporters of Maduro’s government — including Russia and Turkey — decide to intervene on his behalf.

For now, the hope is to use the newly declared interim government as a tool to deny Maduro the oil revenue from the United States that provides Venezuela virtually all of its incoming cash, current and former U.S. officials said.”

-- The State Department directed nonessential U.S. personnel in Venezuela to leave the country. Mariana Zuniga and Mary Beth Sheridan report: “It did not specify how many would leave, but the U.S. government was expected to maintain a skeleton staff as a symbolic presence.”

-- Sen. Marco Rubio (R-Fla.) warned of “swift” and “decisive” action from the U.S. government if any harm befalls America's diplomats remaining in Venezuela. “We're going to impose grave consequences on the people responsible for harm. And that should be left very clearly understood. You know, that's not some idle threat. I'm telling you, I can't go any further than that, but I'm telling you, the consequences will be significant,” Rubio said. (NBC News)

2020 WATCH:

-- Sen. Elizabeth Warren (D-Mass.) is proposing a “wealth tax” on Americans with assets worth more than $50 million. Jeff Stein and Christopher Ingraham report: “Emmanuel Saez and Gabriel Zucman, two left-leaning economists at the University of California, Berkeley, have been advising Warren on a proposal to levy a 2 percent wealth tax on Americans with assets above $50 million, as well as a 3 percent wealth tax on those who have more than $1 billion, according to Saez. The wealth tax would raise $2.75 trillion over a ten-year period from about 75,000 families, or less than 0.1 percent of U.S. households, Saez said.”

-- Democrats are wondering whether their party has outgrown Joe Biden – first elected to the Senate in 1972 – as the former vice president considers a presidential bid. Matt Viser reports: “The Democratic Party over the past two years has become increasingly partisan and sharp-edged. It has been fueled by a visceral hatred of Trump. And in its sharp shift, it has turned toward things that Biden, the 76-year-old lifetime pol, most certainly is not: fresh faces, minorities, and women. His strategy of casting himself as the bridge from one generation to the next, and as the one who can win over pragmatic Democrats as well as disaffected Republicans, would test the limits of Democratic primary voters who have encouraged the most diverse crop of candidates in history.

During a speech on Thursday before the United States Conference of Mayors, the former vice president displayed some of his strengths. He was the man who either knows everyone or makes it seem like he does … But his weaknesses were also evident. His opening lines referred to Adlai Stevenson, who died 54 years ago. He seemed at times to not have control over the volume of his own voice, and he meandered so much that at one point, he stopped himself to say, ‘Now I’m beginning to sound like the wonk I hate.’ He did not mention Trump by name.”

-- GQ profiles Bernie Sanders, who sounds genuinely torn about whether to run for president again. The magazine’s Jason Zengerle reports: “If Sanders does run, he will enter the race not as a long shot but as a top-tier candidate—anointed by some as the front-runner. The world for Sanders has indeed changed, and all the attention and all the expectations seem to be getting to him. His advisers had initially expected him to decide about a presidential run last November, shortly after the midterms, and then make an announcement, that he was getting in or sitting out, in December or January. They fully expected him to jump in the race. But when I met with him in Washington a week before Christmas, Sanders still did not know what he wanted to do, and the indecision was taking a toll—not just on his potential campaign team, many of whom were raring to go but were also getting antsy about missing out on opportunities with other candidates, but also on Sanders.”

-- The Koch network said it would stay out of next year's presidential race, once again declining to endorse Trump. Josh Dawsey and Michelle Ye Hee Lee report: “The decision reflects a narrow path that the influential network led by billionaire industrialist Charles Koch has sought to walk in the Trump era: aligning with the president on some policy issues while withholding its electoral firepower on his behalf. … The Koch operation is still expected to be a player in 2020: Koch-backed groups such as Americans for Prosperity plan to support candidates for U.S. Senate and governor, as they did in 2016, when the network pointedly declined to endorse Trump.”

-- New voter data indicates Trump is in a strong position to hold on to Florida in 2020. Politico’s Marc Caputo reports: “The driving force: white voters who broke Republican and showed up in such big numbers in 2018 that it looked as if they were casting ballots in a presidential election and not a midterm. That amped up turnout came despite an unprecedented Democratic effort in 2018 and record turnout numbers for young, African-American and Hispanic voters in a midterm election, according to new figures from the Florida Division of Elections. As a result, Republicans managed to hold on to the governor’s mansion for the sixth midterm in a row, defeat a three-term incumbent U.S. senator and dominate the state legislature.”

-- House Democrats weighing White House bids face the difficult task of trying to time a presidential primary with a potential congressional race if they don’t succeed. From Paul Kane: “It’s hard enough just to get the attention and profile necessary to be seriously considered, but the House’s two-year terms create a crunch for those lawmakers considering running for president. They have to consider their home-state laws and whether they are allowed to be in primaries for both offices. Yet this year, as the 2020 race begins, could produce the largest crop of House members running for the highest office in the land in recent memory.”


Hillary Clinton's former spokesman, who is now a senior official at the Democratic super PAC Priorities USA, mocked Rep. Liz Cheney's criticism of Speaker Pelosi:

A Democratic senator criticized Trump administration officials' comments about furloughed workers:

A conservative commentator reminded Trump of what he said about the shutdown before it began as the president blames Democrats for the ongoing funding lapse:

Employees of the Johnson Space Center tweeted at their lawmakers to end the shutdown as they're asked to clean their own office bathrooms:

A HuffPost reporter covering the shutdown was laid off:

The executive editor of the Pulitzer Center reacted to all of the newsroom layoffs:

An Obama-era DOJ spokesman reacted to reports raising questions about Jared Kushner's security clearance process:

Elizabeth Warren explained the rationale behind her tax proposal:

A Post reporter noted the unique approach of one presidential candidate:

A Wall Street Journal editor highlighted the fake news spreading in Venezuela amid anti-government protests:

And The Post's Fact Checker columnist contextualized one of Trump's quotes:


-- Former communications aide Cliff Sims recounts in his new tell-all book about the Trump White House how the president became enthralled at the opportunity to have his voice recorded for Disney World’s Hall of Presidents. The Daily Beast’s Asawin Suebsaeng and Lachlan Markay report: “Trump wanted his robotic likeness to tell Disney-goers that Americans had invented the skyscraper and to remind them of his own career in real estate. ‘Then I could add a little, ‘Which, of course, I know a thing or two about,’ right?’ Trump suggested his robot say, according to [Sims]. Disney brass objected to the request, saying that Americans hadn’t actually invented the concept of a skyscraper—it’s ‘just a taller building,’ one protested—and Sims agreed to strike the line from the pre-recorded Disney speech. But the anecdote illustrated one of the major themes that has defined the Trump era: The president, and many of his top aides, have had immense difficulty grasping the enormous duties of their office.”

-- BuzzFeed News, “We Followed YouTube’s Recommendation Algorithm Down The Rabbit Hole,” by Caroline O'Donovan and Charlie Warzel: “Despite year-old promises to fix its ‘Up Next’ content recommendation system, YouTube is still suggesting conspiracy videos, hyperpartisan and misogynist videos, pirated videos, and content from hate groups following common news-related searches.”


“Instead of visiting White House during DC trip, Warriors meet with Barack Obama,” from the San Francisco Chronicle: “The Warriors aren’t visiting the White House during their annual trip to the nation’s capital, but they did visit former President Barack Obama. A picture surfaced Thursday on social media of almost the entire roster posing with Obama. No coaches were present; just players. In September 2017, after Golden State won its first NBA title with [Trump] in office, Trump tweeted, ‘Going to the White House is considered a great honor for a championship team. Stephen Curry is hesitating, therefore invitation is withdrawn!’… After winning the NBA title again last June, Golden State needed no tweet from Trump to know it wouldn’t plan on attending the White House. ... At least 14 players — including Kevin Durant, Stephen Curry, Draymond Green, Klay Thompson and DeMarcus Cousins — met with Obama.”



“She asked him not to wear his Trump shirt at her gym. It caused an uproar,” from Kayla Epstein: “On Sunday, [Staff Sgt. Jake] Talbot went to work out at CDY Fitness in Troy, Mo., as he’d done regularly for eight years. As the Army veteran and National Guardsman had done a few times in the past, he wore a black shirt imprinted with the slogan, ‘2016 Trump for President.’ … [Gym owner Liz] Drew said she took him aside and privately asked him not to wear the shirt again. ‘I said it could be construed as racist and several of my members had complained about feeling uncomfortable when he wore that,’ she recalled. … Driving home from the gym, [Talbot] pulled out his smartphone and began to film himself explaining what had transpired. … Dana Loesch, the National Rifle Association spokeswoman, shared Talbot’s story on Facebook. Conservative-leaning Twitter accounts decried Drew’s decision.”



Trump will have lunch with Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and then participate in a discussion on economic growth with a group of mayors. He will later host a roundtable with Hispanic pastors.


“Idle hands are never good.” — Sen. Johnny Isakson (R-Ga.) connecting the pitfalls of a shutdown to the Bill Clinton scandal. (Erica Werner)



-- It will be another windy day in D.C., with the possibility of some flurries. The Capital Weather Gang forecasts: “More sun than clouds, but they could bubble up at times, especially midday into mid-afternoon. Even a few snow showers or flurries are possible during some of this atmospheric ‘bubbling-up’ as the morning sunshine heats the ground and percolation gets going thanks to very cold air aloft. Westerly wind gusts of 15 to 25 mph are possible. Mid-30s to about 40 degrees may be as high as we get.”

-- The Wizards lost to the Warriors 126-118. (Candace Buckner)

-- Virginians are baffled about how to fill out their tax returns because of a wonky debate going on in the General Assembly. Gregory S. Schneider reports: “The basic problem is simple: Virginia law requires residents who itemize on their federal returns to also itemize on their state returns. But the congressional tax cuts that went into effect last year made complex changes that left state policy out of alignment. Most notably, Congress doubled the standard deduction, making it likely that many people who usually itemize their taxes would instead choose the standard deduction. Many Virginia residents who make that switch are likely to wind up with a heftier state tax bill, because the state’s standard deduction is puny — it hasn’t been raised since the 1980s. That could result in $1.2 billion in extra revenue to Virginia over the next two years, according to Gov. Ralph Northam (D). The legislature is wrestling over what to do with that extra money. In the meantime, state taxpayers — and tax preparers — need to know how to file their Virginia returns.”

-- A man accused of driving while drunk and causing an accident that killed three children was charged with vehicular manslaughter. Lynh Bui reports: “Thomas Daniel Hawks, 27, of White Plains, Md., had a blood alcohol level more than twice the legal limit when he was driving home from a Washington Redskins football game the night of the Dec. 30 crash, prosecutors said. … The impact killed three siblings: Alexander and Rosalie Mejia, 5-year-old twins, and their younger brother, Isaac, whose first birthday the family celebrated a month before the crash.”


Late-night hosts mocked Wilbur Ross's comments about furloughed federal employees:

Late-night hosts had a lot to say on Jan. 24 about Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross downplaying the hardships caused by a partial government shutdown. (Video: Drea Cornejo/The Washington Post)

Sen. Michael Bennet (D-Colo.) gave an impassioned floor speech slamming Trump and Sen. Ted Cruz (R-Tex.) for the shutdown:

Sen. Michael F. Bennet (D-Colo.) on Jan. 24. gave an emotional speech on the shutdown and the state of American democracy on the Senate floor. (Video: U.S. Senate)

A teenager with autism who recently won a lifetime supply of peanut butter gave away some of his winnings to furloughed workers:

Eric “Bean" McKay, a 15-year-old autistic boy, won a lifetime's supply of peanut butter, and gave away much of his winnings to furloughed workers Jan. 23. (Video: WUSA9)

Former White House communications director Anthony Scaramucci said he would interview his former West Wing foe John Kelly in May:

Delivery robots are crossing George Mason University's campus to bring food to students:

Starship Technologies has partnered with George Mason University and deployed 25 autonomous delivery robots across campus. (Video: Jhaan Elker/The Washington Post, Photo: Jeff Elkins/The Washington Post)

And a father and son danced together to "Frozen" songs: